Does a new year mean a new Netflix? Probably not, as their slate for the first month of 2018 is still troublingly light on movies that would be old enough to have their own Netflix accounts. Nevertheless, the streaming giant has plugged a few of the biggest gaps in their library of classic films, adding “The Godfather” trilogy, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and the entire “Bring it On” series in one fell swoop.
Here are the seven best films to stream on Netflix in January 2018 (and click here for a list of everything that’s been added to the service this month).
7. “Definitely, Maybe” (2008)
Remember romantic comedies? They were nice. Sure, many of them were patently insane, and almost all of them reinforced some pernicious gender norms, but they could also be sweet and sincere reminders that we’re all just out there looking for love. “Definitely, Maybe” is one of the genre’s better examples, and also one of its last (at least of the glossy major studio variety). The semi-demented saga of a divorced father who recasts his sex life as a bedtime story for his 10-year-old daughter, the movie hinges on a convoluted premise that requires you to turn off your brain and let the cuteness work its magic. But the film’s meandering flashback structure allows it to squeeze in three rom-coms for the price of one, and Ryan Reynolds has some pretty electric chemistry with all three of his exquisitely cast love interests (Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks). Mix in a Bill Clinton subplot, a genuine measure of suspense, and a pinch of fatalistic anxiety and you’ve got yourself a delightful bit of escapism.
6. “Bring it On” (2000)
At the risk of understating the film’s importance, “Bring it On” essentially closed the book on one century of cinema while authoring the first chapter of another. Arriving at the tail end of the ’90s teen movie boom (right before “Not Another Teen Movie” would brilliantly steer the genre towards self-parody), but also anticipating the irony and intersectionality at the heart of today’s youth culture, Peyton Reed’s spirited cheerleading saga holds up and then some. Reed knows how to mock something with loving moxie (see “Down with Love”), Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union were peaking into perfect foils for each other, and Jessica Bendinger’s script finds a million different ways to add new flair to old routines. It’s part “Clueless,” part “Pitch Perfect,” and all gold. Also, “Torrance Shipman” is one of the great movie names of all time, and there will be no debate on that subject.
5. “The Force” (2017)
Here’s Anthony Kaufman, eloquently speaking to one of 2017’s most vital documentaries: “Peter Nicks’s outstanding direct-cinema portrait of the troubled Oakland Police ‘The Force’ is another urgent chronicle that captures the deep ruptures in our communities: On one side, the much-maligned police of the California city; on the other, the community who feels trampled over by the authorities. That ‘The Force’ suggests—at first, at least—that we should sympathize with the police during Trumpian times may be a tough pill for some viewers to swallow, but what makes the movie such a riveting and resonant story is the unexpected places it goes. Despite how it first seems, ‘The Force’ paints a far more complicated and troubled picture of enforcement and accountability, which is sure to only become more distressing in the years to come.”
4. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
Audrey Hepburn is a timeless icon, but “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — her most iconic role, if hardly her best performance — has most definitely aged, and not very well. Mickey Rooney’s notorious turn as Yunioshi is just the tip of the iceberg in a movie that builds to the unsubtle inference that women are like stray cats whose liberation makes them a danger to themselves (Paul Varjak barking “I love you, you belong to me!” is a real howler in this day and age, even if his heart is in the right place). But the truth of the matter is that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was always a faintly ridiculous confection, a cosmopolitan fairy tale about two people finding each other and setting themselves free in a city that can often feel like a cage.
Perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon, Blake Edwards’ film is fun because of how it expresses the time between then and now, just as it was conceived to be fun for how it expresses the distance between fantasy and real life (a divide that’s often as thin and impermeable as the glass display of a jewelry store on Fifth Avenue). Sure, that big kiss in the rain looks like it was staged by aliens, but that’s just part of its charm.
3. “The Truman Show” (1998)
When Andrew Niccol first dreamed up the basic premise of “The Truman Show” in 1991, “The Real World” had yet to storm the airwaves, and the piss-colored golden age of reality TV was light years in the distance. Of course, stories were preoccupied with solipsism and the narrativization of real life long before our current media era, but Niccol’s vision for how those ideas might be monetized has proven to be less prescient than it was flat out prophetic. It’s a massive credit to Jim Carrey’s poignant lead performance — and to every part of the searing and profoundly humane film that Peter Weir made from Niccol’s script — that “The Truman Show” is still such a delight now that so much of it has come true.
Here we are in a time when everyone can live in front of an audience, a time when we’re all being confronted by the dangers of “accepting the reality of the world which we’re presented,” a time when the Earth itself is falling apart for our agonized entertainment… and it’s still genuinely thrilling to watch Truman Burbank sail into that storm. Then again, if he can make it to the end of the world and step out into the other side, maybe we can too.
2. “Marie Antoinette” (2006)
When it first came out more than 10 years ago, Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” received a very mixed reaction for how it gently humanized one of the most famous (and famously ill-fated) monarchs in French history. But time has been as kind to the director’s most opulent film, which continues to seem less like a gaudy outlier than it does an opulent expression of its maker’s singular genius. It may not match the tenderness of “Lost in Translation” or “Somewhere,” but none of Coppola’s other movies so vividly illustrate how location is her most evocative means of exploring dislocation.
Shot on location in Versailles, anchored by a deeply felt performance by Kirsten Dunst, and punctuated with some anachronistic jams that speak to its heroine’s turbulent inner life, the film is a stunning portrait about someone trying to maintain herself in an environment that seeks to reduce her to her most basic function; it’s a film about woman doing whatever she can to prevent herself from becoming a doll. Coppola doesn’t defend Antoinette’s actions, but she understands her options (or lack thereof). She doesn’t let Antoinette off the hook (or out of the guillotine, as it were), but she recognizes that inside one of history’s most lavishly gilded cages was a real girl trying to get out.
1. “The Godfather” (1972)
Finally, you can watch “The Godfather” the way that Francis Ford Coppola always intended for it to be seen: On an iPhone, in the back seat of an Uber, with a handy option to skip right over those pesky opening credits. Okay, so there’s really no bad way to experience one of the very best films ever made, and it’s not as if Americans haven’t mostly been watching this thing in low-resolution on commercial-interrupted cable TV for the last 40 years. And, as unsettling as it may be to admit, having this time-honored masterpiece (and both of its sequels) available on the world’s most popular streaming platform might prove helpful in selling new generations of viewers on an unimpeachable cinematic masterpiece; it used to be two VHS tapes rubber-banded together into an intimidating brick of plastic, but now it’s just binge-able content! And that’s an offer none of us can seem to refuse.